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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA leads AZ rivalry by thinnest of margins

    With the Duel in the Desert football game this Saturday, the debate regarding school supremacy starts up once agian. The UA might be “Arizona’s first university,” but that doesn’t mean it’s the best.

    Yes, all of the Wildcats here on campus know that nobody bears down like the Arizona, but the honest truth is our self-assurance in our dominance has led to complacency. The rivals to the north, Arizona State University, have been slowly but surely creeping up and siphoning off our excellence. But fear not, for the Wildcats still hold the ground as the premier institution in the state. How long Arizona holds that spot though, is arguably undetermined.

    State budget cuts have changed the face of the UA. Slashed funding has forced the UA to seek alternative means to make ends meet. Increasing the cap on the allowed percentage of out-of-state students admitted to the university and tuition and fee hikes have harmed the UA.

    More and more out-of-state students, with higher tuition bills, have come to campus just as many students are leaving because they can’t hang with the college struggles or the financial ones. Our future is an unstable one, gaining relative traction with help from the out-of-state dollar.

    But this has led to unsteady graduation and retention rates, while admission rates have slowly risen. As this occurs, the UA has come closer and closer to resembling the less than favorable foe in Phoenix.

    According to U.S. News and World Report rankings, the UA carries a 34 percent four-year graduation rate and an unsettling 79 percent freshman retention rate. At the same time, ASU maintains a 32 percent four-year graduation rate and an 81 percent freshman retention rate. ASU is creeping up in national rankings overall. ASU is ranked 132 by U.S. News, while the UA is 124. The UA is the 59th best public university, and ASU is 65th.

    Specifically speaking to colleges and areas of focus, the UA has always championed Eller College of Management and the engineering program, yet ASU now trumps Arizona in both, coming in at 27th and 44th respectively, while the UA is 63rd and 50th.

    ASU is on the rise, ranked as the eighth best up-and-coming university, and saying that Arizona is better won’t always be good enough. The UA cannot continue to claim that it’s better without actually doing better.

    Historically, the UA has been able to out-produce ASU due to higher acceptance standards (in 2010 UA acceptance rate was 75 percent while ASU has a 87 percent acceptance rate), and a higher total of research grants. But with more students coming in each year, funding alone won’t save the UA.

    Again, funding is being cut and the gap of endowment between the universities is shrinking each year. As of 2010, the UA’s endowment was near $480 million, while ASU’s was roughly $441 million. And the old system that used to give the UA more state funding per student is soon to be wiped away after the Arizona Board of Regents voted last September to increase ASU’s total funding per student. While the UA still receives the most state funding per student, ASU is quickly closing on the lead.

    Who is let in, who stays and who graduates are all indicators of a college’s elitism and success. The elite ones distance themselves from their competitors and peers, while the rest remain stagnant.

    Saturday’s football game isn’t the end-all, be-all in determining which university is better, but it’s probably the best visual representation we have. In fact, it closely represents the reality of the situation, if you think about it.

    While Arizona drubbed ASU in 2008, 31-10, the Sun Devils made the 2009 matchup close as they took a late field goal to win, 20-17. Then, in 2010, even when it looked like the Wildcats were the better team by far, the Sun Devils woke them up. Arizona lost by the thinnest of margins and just like that it is the underdog. That’s how quickly it can happen, both on the football field and in academia.

    If Arizona doesn’t wake up, the know-nothings to the north will catch up, edge it out and then it’ll be nothing more than an afterthought.

    — Storm Byrd is the perspectives editor. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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